Thursday, July 29, 2010

1,000 Uses For 1,000 Words

A recent discovery of this artistic recycling trend has me wishing I had some expendable books in my collection.

People do some pretty cool things with their old tomes, and my brain-wheels are turning now ...

'Book' bookshelves are popular, and some of my favorites. (above from Design Squish)
An iPod carrier (I don't know why you'd want an iPod carrier ... But you could put anything in there, really) Courtesy of

Books can be planting pots Sculptures Even lighting fixtures (called 'Boeklampen')

Or cool bags! (top from, bottom courtesy of OhMySoCute .com)

It wasn't long before I was eyeing my trashiest paperbacks with malicious intent.

On the chopping block:

The one on the left was an emergency 'I ran out of books to read and have an 8 hour flight' airport grab. The other two were both found abandoned in classrooms at school; I was pretty excited about their covers, so I nabbed 'em.

Just to test the waters, I decided to give poor long-haired, silk-shirted Sebastian a little taste of my drill.

(insert maniacal evil laughter here)

He didn't like it.

But I DID.

Actually, it was really really really seriously fun (my Dad used to be a librarian ... I have a psychological conflict regarding proper book treatment).

Except I'd really been hoping for a cleaner cut. Still, the brain-wheels will keep turning. I think maybe I just need to take a saw to Sebastian.

(Insert ominous 'Dun, dun, duuuuuuunn' here)

Monday, July 26, 2010

My Theoretical Shelf Adventure

A few weeks ago, I helped my mom put down a floating faux-wood floor in her bedroom. We had a bunch of bits of board left over, and I nabbed a few, knowing that one day inspiration would strike.

They sat ... and sat ...

Then, last night, during the pounding and booming of a summer thunderstorm, I suddenly (in a flash of lightning) saw those boards in a new light:

"SHELVES!" I cried, and sprang immediately into action.

I glued 'em together, making two similar length boards.
But they only looked good from the top; the faux showed too much on the bottom, and the edges looked weird.

BUT THEN, in another blaze of firey lightning, I spied my pile of Reading For My Urban Theory Course, left long forgotten in a corner!

A mod-podge! I would decorate my bookshelf with the Written Word and Recycle Otherwise Useless Urban Theory Articles!

I rebounded into action, working fervently to the sound of the crashing rain, (Elmer's) glue flying everywhere ... I put them on a rack to dry for a few hours, poking at them every few minutes impatiently.

Next came my favorite part: Power Tool Time.
I drilled holes in the bookcases & in the plaster wall (what a pain), and hung the shelving brackets.

(The plaster got special treatment, with dry wall anchors and then the screws)

I painted the brackets to match the wall color, and stuck those Theoretical Shelves on there!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Getting Graphic

Just as I was getting over my Photoshop contest obsession (see to drink the KoolAid yourself), I stumbled upon

It's a brilliant little site that allows the community to vote on each other's art work, and for the lucky winners, it prints the stuff on Tshirts and pays the artist - $2000 per accepted design!

I immediately became wildly optimistic and inspired. I sketched for days, I made myself chuckle with my own brilliance, I photoshopped like a fiend, and finally sent off a couple ideas ...
Both designs tanked.

Because it's a stupid, stupid popularity contest. Which I would feel fine about if I were popular. Or more talented.

But I still love the site and am impressed/tickled by the other kids' work ...

Graphics by people who are not me, and who are therefore more popular and talented:

Sigh ... I will press boldly on!

Sketch for possible future submission, as soon as I finish up the battle-wound licking:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Completely Random

Sooo as part of my 'can-try' attitude lately, I've been looking into this Etsy shop stuff. So far it's an abysmal failure, but that's ok.

But I'm ALSO trying Google Analytics ... which gives me a list of search terms that have inexplicably lead people to my shop.

This includes:

"fur earring"

"my little pony fabric"

"printed coasters pinball"

"vintage film reel canister"

"vintage sperry topsiders"

"viper marshmellow"

I have no idea what these things have to do with my little handmade jewelry.

But hats off - and best of luck - to whomever is out there in search of 'viper marshmellows'!

(Are they snake-shaped marshmallows? ... Car-shaped? Marshmallows meant for snakes? Meant for 'viper' cars? Marshmallow-shaped snakes meant for cars? ... I may never know.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Reverse Stenciling

So a couple years ago, when I was feeling drawn to tree imagery, I'd repainted my room.

At the same time, I was working on refinishing an old desk (which had been my mother's ... I love that legacy stuff :) ).

I left it a little distressed on top, because I didn't want to erase its whole past, but I smoothed out the major scratching on the surface, and of course added some blue flair to the edges and legs.

I also (to my knowledge) invented for the First Time Ever the Most Gloriously Cool Technique for a Reverse Stencil Art on a Wood Surface!
Woo hoo!

Here's what I did.

First I stripped the top of the desk, and sanded it to my heart's content but did NOT finish it yet (how-to posted here.)

Then I made two tree stencils. I just sketched the trees onto the backs of old cereal boxes, and cut them out with my trusty Exacto knife.

I placed the stencils where I wanted them, and then with the foam brush I painted the varnish on within the stencil.

Once the stenciled varnish dried, I poured some regular acrylic paint onto the varnished part, and then using a dry cloth rubbed it over the varnished surface - the paint stays on the raw wood, but wipes off of the varnish easily, creating a halo effect that illuminates the tree shapes!

After that had dried, I finished varnishing the surface as I normally would, sealing in the trees at the same time!

(Sorry the photos aren't very clear ... it's hard to get the light paint color to show up properly)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Lean Green Washing Machine

This post is a bit different from usual, but I want to share the new system I've got for doing my laundry.

I like finding ways to be more off-grid and economical, and so far I've been very pleased with this change.

(This is the brand I happen to have: the 'Wonder Washer' and Dryer.)

I like this system because I:

- save tons of money. Seriously, the laudromats near me use like $15 per load to wash and dry. Now my only cost is detergent.
- save time. No schlepping or hauling my hamper around, and no waiting at the 'mat while my clothes tumble about.
- do laundry any time I want, wearing whatever the heck I want, and am free to do other tasks around the house at the same time.


- dirty stuff

- detergent

- running water

A full hamper has to be divided up into a few washes (unfortunately).

First: Assemble the washer. It's easy, just read the directions.


1. Pour the recommended amount of detergent into the empty washer (I've learned to sit the washer directly in my tub, for easy filling and emptying).

2. Fill the washer with water, temperature-depending on the load.

3. Secure the lid as tightly as possible - this is important. I use a washcloth to turn the knob as far as it goes. The washer works based on creating a vacuum inside, which uhh magically makes the soap push through the clothes ... OK, I'm foggy on the details.

4. Turn the crank for a few minutes (the directions tell you how long, I just crank until I get bored).

5. Drain the washer. Fill with water again for the rinse cycle, and repeat.


1. Position the dryer so that the spout is over the tub, if possible.

If not, put a large container under the spout - water will be rushing out.

(I didn't read the directions, and learned that the hard way ... see photo of angry Amanda yelling at peeing-on-the-floor dryer below)(He was obviously nervous.)
2. Fold the items into the dryer in a zig-zag motion so that they lay as flat and compact as possible. The dryer won't work if the load is out of balance.

3. Flip the handle to turn on the dryer. Watch all that water pour out.

4. When the water stops coming out, flip the handle back, remove clothes, and hang them to dry.

It might seem silly to 'dry' and then still have to hang things up, but it makes a major difference. If I hang things outside, it only takes about an hour for most things to be done. If I hang them inside, less than a day.

(Heavy-duty things like jeans and bedclothes do better with a real washer, but they can be pretreated for stains and then washed this way, as well.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Simple Mural Making

It's flashback time ...
It was the year 2007, and I was a
young(er) lady moving to the big city.

In the two-level loft I was to share with 4 lovely yoga instructors, all of our 5 bedrooms came equipped with homemade lofts.

When I arrived, my room was a bit dreary.

But it was nothing a little dab of paint couldn't fix!

First, I decided I'd make life easy and only paint the bottom portion of the 18' walls.
I chose a calm blue color ...

It's easy to get a clean paint edge across the top.

- Just mark off the height you want in pencil, grab a leveler and trace a line at that height around the room.

- Then, carefully run a strip of BLUE painter's tape (the blue kind is the type meant for these jobs: it will stick enough to allow a clean painting edge, but won't pull up the paint underneath when you remove it).

- Roll 'er on. This job took three coats.

Voila! A two-level effect.
It was nice, but lacked oomph. So I decided to go around the border (with a step ladder) and free-hand some trees, using the same color (but a smaller brush) ...
(I was terribly lazy and didn't tape up those cracks ... but I was young, we must forgive me.)

Free-handing trees is EASY.
It helps to have look at some reference images.

I drew out a rough sketch of my (really simple) technique:
- Start from the bottom and pull the brush up; let the trunk split off into branches that taper.

- Just repeat that type of stroke until the branches look full. The most important thing is to vary it, and keep adding more smaller branches.

In this type, the branches don't overlap, for a more stencil-y feel.

Meanwhile, upstairs was now looking stark.

So I went for a simple tree-house look; with a darker blue in the same family, and with a larger brush.

I loved my tree house! From the loft level, just the light blue tree border showed, and the darker branches around me completed a calm, wintry scene.

Other murals I've done in the past, for fun & practise (I'm definitely not a mural-expert (like our friend, the Mural Maker!)):
An island scene

Picasso-inspired guitar player

Just a hole in the wall

Cheers and happy painting!